Smithsonian Celebrates Black History Month

January 31, 2008
News Release
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The Smithsonian celebrates Black History Month (Feb. 1–29) with a series of films, lectures and performances at museums around the Institution. All programs are free, unless otherwise indicated.

Feature Event
The Institution will kick off Black History Month Sunday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. with "The Continuing Importance of Black History Month," a keynote address by Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Tours of African American art at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum will precede and follow Bunch's lecture.

The National Portrait Gallery will feature a tour of "Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits," the inaugural exhibition of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Through an intriguing collection of 100 portraits, the exhibition examines 150 years of American history to show how photographers and their subjects worked together to create positive images, challenge demeaning stereotypes and shape new attitudes about race and status. The tour will start at 2 p.m. from the Information Desk in the F Street Lobby.

Immediately following the lecture, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will present the tour "African American Artists in the Smithsonian American Art Museum." The museum is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of art by African Americans. This tour highlights a variety of work—from James Hampton's glittering tinfoil "Throne" to Edmonia Lewis' allegorical marble sculpture to William H. Johnson's modernist scenes of American life. Participants gather at the Information Desk in the G Street Lobby.

The Smithsonian Associates will present "Big Band Works of Quincy Jones" Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will offer a program of some of Jones' most important works, including "Stockholm Sweetnin'" and "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set." Tickets are required. Call (202) 633-3030.

Filmed on five continents, "500 Years Later," an award-winning documentary, chronicles the legacy of slavery and the struggle for the most essential human right—freedom. This documentary will be shown at the National Museum of African Art Saturday, Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. The film's writer and producer M.K. Asante Jr. will moderate a discussion. This film is recommended for mature audiences.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will hold a series of 15-minute talks by museum curators. The lectures will be held Wednesdays in February at noon. Visitors meet at the museum seal near the National Mall entrance. (Presenters and topics are subject to change.)

  • Feb. 6—Bill Yeingst presents "Greensboro Lunch Counter"
  • Feb. 13—Margaret Weitekamp and Alan Needell present "Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Apollo 11 and the Civil Rights Movement"
  • Feb. 27—Alex Spencer presents "Tuskegee Airmen's Congressional Medal of Honor"

For Children
On Saturday, Feb. 9, from noon to 3 p.m., the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art will feature "Yoruba Crowns Workshop." Participants will learn about the cultural symbolism of Nigerian Yoruba crowns in the museum's exhibition "African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection." Participants also can design a crown and adorn it with personal symbols. This program is recommended for children ages 7 and older. Registration is required. Call (202) 633-4640.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will present "SAAM I Am!" Saturday, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. Washington, D.C., jazz legend Jacques Johnson will lead a youthful ensemble in a performance of one of his own compositions, which was inspired by Gwen Everett's book "Li'l Sis and Uncle Willie." From 1 to 3 p.m., children can decorate musical instruments in a craft activity in the multipurpose rooms (near the G Street entrance). Children also can play along at the concert, which begins at 3 p.m. in the museum's McEvoy Auditorium.

The National Museum of African Art will feature "Listen to the Drumbeat! The Art Speaks" Friday, Feb. 15 at 10:15, 11 and 11:45 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. Kofi Dennis, part of the duo Anansegromma, will introduce young audiences to pattern and communication in drumming. Participants will learn to speak through music in an interactive "drum circle" and then explore the museum's exhibitions to look for the "beat" in African art. Drums are provided, but drums from home are welcome. This activity is recommended for children ages 5 through 10. Tickets are required. Call the Discovery Theater at (202) 633-8700.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will feature "Free within Ourselves: African American Artists," walk-in tours that explore the personal and cultural experiences of African American artists represented in the collection. The tour will highlight such artists as Lois Mailou Jones, Alma Thomas, William H. Johnson, James Hampton, Edmonia Lewis and Robert Duncansonwill. Walk-in tours will be held Mondays, Feb. 4 and 11, and Thursdays, Feb. 21 and 28, at 12:30 p.m. Participants meet at the Information Desk in the F Street Lobby.

All programs are subject to change. For more information about the Black History Month programs, visit or e-mail For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).